Kaamilah Diabaté is a senior at Howard High School of Technology. She earned first place recognition at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Communication Contest and the 19th Annual NAACP Essay Oratory Contest. She also spoke at the 2016 TEDxWilmington Annual Conference. Throughout her high school career, she has maintained a 4.0 GPA while serving as the captain of Howard’s varsity basketball team and pursuing many other endeavors both in and out of school. In 2017, Diabaté competed in SkillsUSA National Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

We were honored to have Kaamilah recite a series of original pieces at the 10th Annual Vision Coalition Conference. Watch a clip of her performance and read her original  pieces below.

Diary of a Broken Dream

I have nothing
that’s what they always told me
but they don’t understand why we sell with the homies
or why we ball so hard to receive plastic trophies
and every shot’s a fade, and a scream that says Kobe
because every shot’s a fade, and a bullet struck too deep

for survival

we’ve been cursed since arrival
the government is our rival
we have no guidance
so we worship hip hop idols

the police don’t protect us
they were taught to neglect us
like the politicians that create laws to subject us
but never really find our needs
or properly represent us

because we were considered property since the first president
and we weren’t guaranteed life since the first precedent
so selling rocks to buy ice doesn’t mean an ill intent
it’s a way to get by when the struggle circumvents
or a way to get back time that we feel that we’ve spent
because if we freeze our minds
nothing really exists

no matter how vivid you paint the picture
some people have no vision
and can’t see the consequences of their decisions
they’re actors
they’re acting
they say “packing never lacking” but the cycle is everlasting

they run themselves ragged
in drug traffic
and if you aren’t talking right they pull the automatic
you hear sirens blare and radio static
suicide and murder is the new dynamic
children go and play
but they always have their bikes
because everyday they know
they’ll be running home from fights
they’ll beaten black and blue
they’ll be crying to their mothers
not knowing what to do
not understanding how they’re governed

lost in a system that wasn’t made for them
lost in a system that has no space for them
laws within the system try to cage them in

in the land of the free
and the home of the brave

but the bravest ones are those who hung on the stage
and hung on the gallows

we’re taught to bow our heads as the truth unravels
instead we duck and dodge
and get hammered by the gavel

the streets isn’t the only place that we’re beat
in classrooms black kids feel like they can’t compete
and when they flash news
it’s not complete without a homicide
there’s no more jack and jill
we just run and hide
there’s no more playground games because it’s battle time
melanin like elbow grease
they call it grit and grime

because every day is a fight for the next one
so they just sit outside and hope that the check comes
they don’t want to starve
because that’s how death comes
but when another soldier dies, we call them the blessed one
because they no longer live a life that oppressed them

a life where we are killed because we wanted new sneakers
a life where we are killed because we blast our speakers
a life where we are killed even though we work ’til our knees hurt

in the end i’m thankful
’cause i know it could be worse
but it’s hard to have faith when there’s always a new pyre
another body killed by gunfire

it’s hard to have our heart’s desires
when society labels us as thieves and liars
but we are more than our street attire

we are young kings and queens
something higher.

The Renegade is about a young boy’s journey as he struggled through public school. His teachers knew him as the student that never participated and always had a negative attitude about school. Because he didn’t participate, he didn’t receive his full educational experience.

Though, like in many cases, he was very bright, his underlying health and mental health issues went unnoticed and untreated. When young children face difficulties, they become discouraged. Without the proper support, this discouragement leads to a vicious cycle of pessimism.

It is noted that lower and middle class neighborhoods have lower quality education. Whether it be poor facilities, lack of resources, underqualified teachers, or low funding, the students are directly impacted.

Recently, Wilmington has been labeled as the most dangerous city in America for youth. Personally, losing peers to violence, and watching others become victims and perpetrators, I can understand how this affects the stigma towards school.

Health and education go hand in hand. If someone cannot see, how can they read? The intent of my piece is to emphasize the need of healthcare in public schools and to encourage people to ask why a particular person behaves the way they do.

The Renegade

that hand that isn’t raised often goes unseen
hidden by harsh realities and broken dreams
in a street life littered with rip posters and old candles
for the youth
it can be too much to handle
being hidden by bad grades and poor behavior
but when you feel bad you want to scream
it’s not fair that’s you’re living a nightmare while everybody else lives their dreams

it’s not fair that everything comes easy to others but i always struggle
at such a young age
it’s like the world i have to juggle

when you have no role models
just dead bodies and gold hollows

but you can’t wallow in your affliction because sensitivity is a conviction when your patience coddles

when you’re lost with high expectations
it’s a hard pill to swallow
once you’re labeled noncompliant it’s hard to follow
it’s like having an open field thats been fallowed

it’s like you should’ve did it backwards
and took the pockets from the money
so the money would spill
where junkies walk funny
where the children play and pray
where the children live and die
because there’s stars on earth
but there’s no stars in the sky

there’s no food on the table
there’s no hope for the young
buying dreams isn’t stable
but i’ll still buy one

because that’s all i had
a dream and some change
i would dream for better days
but nothing ever changed
i would look for the light
but darkness always came
i would look for the love
but the lies were never tamed
a product of the environment
the environment I became.